Donald Trump and the White Working Class

Earlier today I speculated that Donald Trump’s support could be partially attributable to the success of a demagogic strategy focused on non-college-educated white voters. After all, these are increasingly the voters at the center of the GOP “base,” but who do not necessarily share the views of GOP elites on immigration, trade policy or entitlements; neither does Donald Trump.

But it hasn’t been that clear that Trump’s fans were paying any attention to his issue positions aside from his abrasive Mexican-baiting and his general screw-you attitude to anyone who crossed him. And some early takes on Trump’s following–including one by the much-esteemed Nate Silver–didn’t find any particular constituency he seemed to be attracting, other than people susceptible to media manipulation.

Today’s new WaPo/ABC poll, though, shows Trump’s suddenly inflated position in the Republican field being based very heavily on the white working class vote. He’s at 33% among white non-college educated Republicans (and Republican leaners), and 9% among white college educated GOPers (and leaners). There was a similar big education tilt among Trump supporters in an earlier Fox News poll.

Yes, non-college-educated voters disproportionately tend to be “low-information” voters who don’t particularly care if their betters think Trump’s vulgar. But then again, GOP elites think anyone who opposes entitlement cuts or trade agreements or at least some form of immigration reform are “vulgar,” too, so maybe Donald Trump as a right-wing “populist” with a conservative working class base of support makes more sense than one might initially imagine.

Support Nonprofit Journalism

If you enjoyed this article, consider making a donation to help us produce more like it. The Washington Monthly was founded in 1969 to tell the stories of how government really works—and how to make it work better. Fifty years later, the need for incisive analysis and new, progressive policy ideas is clearer than ever. As a nonprofit, we rely on support from readers like you.

Yes, I’ll make a donation

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.